PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The 50th season of Brown women's ice hockey gets underway this weekend when the Bears face off against the Tigers of the Rochester Institute of Technology on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. The pair of non-conference contests mark the beginning of Brown's third season under Head Coach Amy Bourbeau, who hopes to help the Bears recapture the glory of Brown teams of past decades that helped shape women's college hockey into the game it is today.
The Bears return 18 players from last year's roster, including goalie Aubree Moore (Bowie, Md.) and defenseman Jennifer Nedow (Brockville, Ontario), who will serve as senior co-captains. The upperclassmen are joined by four newcomers who will pick up where five graduated seniors left off.
HOYLE AND CO. SET TO LEAD OFFENSIVE CORE
Brown returns over 60 percent of its scoring from the previous season, but will miss the offensive prowess of last year's leading scorer Alena Polenska, who tallied team highs of nine goals and 10 assists. Other notable graduates include Laurie Jolin (six goals, five assists) and platoon goalie Katie Jamieson (11 starts, 3.42 goals-against average), but Bourbeau is confident that the current squad is ready to move forward.
Senior Jessica Hoyle (Toronto, Ontario) and junior Lauren Vella (Staten Island, N.Y.) return as Brown's leading scorers after combining for nine goals and 14 assists in 2012-13. Junior Sarah Robson (Mississauga, Ontario) fired in five goals last season, the third-best mark on the team, while sophomore Monica Masucci (Toronto, Ontario) recorded three goals and two assists during her rookie campaign.
"Right now, Jess Hoyle looks incredibly strong," Bourbeau said. "She's one of the smartest offensive players we have and we're going to look to her a ton this year."
Bourbeau also noted the superb play of freshmen Erin Conway (Jackson, Mich.) and Maddie Woo (Plymouth, Minn.) during last weekend's scrimmage against Princeton, and expects the rookies to bolster an experienced front line. Junior Janice Yang (Westport, Conn.), who has battled injuries throughout her first two seasons, also looks much improved and ready to contribute, Bourbeau said.
The Bears also feature senior Vanessa Welten (Crysler, Ontario), juniors Kaitlyn Keon (Toronto, Ontario) and Brittany Moorehead (Clinton, N.Y.) and sophomores Ariana Rucker (Oakton, Va.) and Lauren Zary (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) at the forward position.
DEFENSIVE PLAN: KEEP CALM AND SKATE ON
Two years removed from a season during which she was named Team MVP, First-Team All-Ivy and a finalist for ECAC Goalie of the Year, Moore will protect the net and serve as Brown's on-ice leader. Physical talent aside, Moore brings an intangible quality to the team when she stands between the pipes. The cool and collected co-captain instills confidence in her teammates with a speak-softly-and-lead-by-example approach.
"Aubree's a true competitor," Bourbeau said. Moore, who appeared in 18 games last year and ranked in the nation's top 20 in save percentage and goals-against average, has an uncanny ability to block out the nervousness and pressure inherent to her position, Bourbeau said. "It doesn't faze her. That's what I love about good goalies – they're all very calm. She's poised and in control, and our players see and feel that. It relaxes them."
Moore will mentor sophomore Micaela Ross (McKinney, Texas) and freshman Monica Elvin (Oakland, Calif.) at the goalie position.
Behind the blue line, Nedow and Vella will help lock down the puck and allow the offense to operate effectively. "Vella can carry the puck out of the zone quickly and Nedow defends well in the corners," Bourbeau said. "When they take care of business and the breakouts are easy and smooth, we spend less time in the D zone."
Further leadership will come from senior defenders Kelly Kittredge (Mahwah, N.J.) and Samantha Woodward (Lexington, Mass.), who earned the team's Tara Mounsey Award in 2011 in recognition as Brown's top defensive player. Fellow Brown defensemen include sophomores Hunter Davis (Clifton Park, N.Y.), Kelly Micholson (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) and Ali Rolandelli (Minnetonka, Minn.) and freshman Catherine LeBoeuf (Dieppe, New Brunswick).
LEAGUE SCHEDULE FEATURES NATIONALLY-REGARDED REGIONAL RIVALS
A grueling 22-game conference schedule pits the Bears against formidable ECAC Hockey and Ivy League opponents, including four teams ranked in the nation's top 10, over the enduring fourth-month season. Conference play kicks off on Nov. 1 at Clarkson, the preseason favorite to win the ECAC, and things don't get an easier when the Bears open up at Meehan Auditorium against No. 9 Quinnipiac on Nov. 8. Brown faces St. Lawrence and Rensselaer on the road in ECAC action and hosts Princeton in league play before a pair of non-conference home bouts against Connecticut and Vermont.
The Bears wrap up their November slate with the much-anticipated Mayor's Cup against cross-town rival Providence when Brown will look to retain the Cup for another year after last season's 2-2 tie.
The Bears play two non-league games at Maine on Dec. 6 and 7 before the winter break, then pick back up in ECAC play with a home weekend slate versus Cornell and Colgate on Jan. 3 and 4. Conference action makes up the remainder of the slate as the final 17 contests pit Brown against ECAC and Ivy League opponents.